The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday said its panel had commenced sittings on 119 sexual and gender-based violence in seven states and Abuja.
The NHRC Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu, made this known at the opening session of the Special Investigation Panel on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) organised by the commission in Ikeja, Lagos for South-West zone.
Ojukwu said that the second round of sitting on SGBV in the wake of a resurging pandemic was unique, because of the astronomical rise in the case of SGBV.
Acording to him, it has been described as a shadow pandemic by the UN.
“The commission is vested with the power to investigate all alleged cases of human rights violations, monitor developments in various thematic areas of human rights, and assist victims of human rights violations through appropriate awards and compensations.
“The sitting will afford the panelist, the parties and members of the general public the opportunity to address issues of the pandemic-induced and other SGBV cases from a realistic perspective.
“In this round, the panel which has already sat in Enugu, shall also be sitting here in Lagos as well as Ebonyi, Cross-Rivers, Rivers, Sokoto, Adamawa and Abuja.
“During this period, a total of 119 cases received had been slated for consideration,” Ojukwu, represented by Mr Abdurahman Yakubu, the Director, Civil and Political Rights Department, said.
According to him, the breakdown shows that Enugu has 28 cases; Lagos (15); Ebonyi (12); Cross Rivers (9); Rivers (16); Sokoto (7); Adamawa (4) and Abuja (27).
Ojukwu said in the first round of sittings before the COVID-19 lockdown, the panel received 113 complaints across the six geo-political zones, adding that landmark success was recorded during the hearing.
He said that office of the Vice President’s request to the commission to take immediate steps to arrest the scourge of SGBV in the society and make recommendations to the government informed the constitution of the panel.
Ojukwu said that members of the panel were carefully selected to represent diverse interests of the society, which include NHRC as the Chairman and Secretariat, the Academia, Gender, Experts, civil society and professional groups.
The NHRC said that the panel would work with consultants who would bring professional expertise in the field of SGBV to bear on the proceedings and reports of the panel.
According to him, part of the panel’s terms of reference is to identify victims of violation and abuse and ensure adequate remedy to them and accountability for the violations.
In his remarks, Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN), a former Director-General, Nigerian Institute of Advance Legal Studies, commended the commission for its determination to eradicate violence against women and girls.
Azinge said that the panel would provide opportunity to engage with the victims of SGBV and to protect human rights by thrashing out all violations.
“Bringing to the fore what UN has clearly described as a shadow pandemic on its own, is very apt. Experience seems to have revealed that we have so many cases of SGBV all over the place.
“The way NHRC is going about the issues of violations of human rights, I believe is the best way.
“First, to unearth these issues, bring them to the fore, address them and give prescriptions as appropriate in terms of sanctions and what a few.
“A lot of issues will be brought to the fore and matters will be trashed out and settled,” Azinge said.
Also, Mrs Bose Iro-Nsi, Executive Director, Women’s Rights and Health Project, urged the commission to beam its searchlights to the grassroots where so many cases of SGBV were happening unreported.
Commenting, Mr Ikule Emmanuel, National Co-ordinator, NOPRIN Foundation, urged the commission to set machinery in motion to investigate cases of SGBV in Benue.
Mr Paul Ayeni, Lagos State Commander, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), described the cases of SGBV as cankerworm that had eaten deep into the fabric of Nigerian society.
Ayeni, represented by CSC Deborah Johnson, Head of Anti-Human Trafficking, Irregular Migration and Gender- Base, NSCDC Lagos Command, advocated the support of all non-governmental organisations, and schools to fight it.
He commended the NHRC for its efforts to stamp out the menace.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the commission had in 2019 unveiled the panel of investigation to examine the prevailing human rights abuses and recommend appropriate disciplinary measures.
The EU-UN Spotlight Initiative is targeted at eliminating violence against women and girls.